South Africa is the hub of Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines production. But the company has been vehemently exporting vaccines out of the continent to rich European nations, an act heavily criticized by the health activists across the African continent.
It is to be noted that Europe has already vaccinated a large majority of its population and the European Union has even donated Covid-19 vaccines to other parts of the world. On the other hand Africa is still lagging behind in vaccination as the supply is staggered and bureaucracy at its peak.
Africa is at present in dire need of stepping up vaccine supply and vaccination drive. Despite this the single dose Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines were exported out of South Africa where they were assembled. Out of 1.3 billion population of Africa only 3% has been fully vaccinated.
On Tuesday, the activists in South Africa pressed for full public disclosure of the agreement between Johnson & Johnson company and the South African government over vaccine manufacturing and supply. The revelations were made by the New York Times that claimed J&J exported millions of its vaccine doses produced at Aspen Pharmacare in the South African city of Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth) to Europe.
The report by NYT also claims that the government of South Africa waived its export ban of vaccines to ensure that Johnson & Johnson could ship out vaccines produced in-country to Europe.
Aspen Pharmacare, a South African drug manufacturer, had entered a contract with Johnson & Johnson to assemble its Covid-19 vaccine, put it in vials and package it, through a process called “fill and finish.” The firm has the capacity to assemble approximately 220 million doses of J & J vaccine annually.
“We believe that the conduct of Johnson & Johnson has been scandalous, immoral and unconstitutional,” Fatima Hassan of the Health Justice Initiative, an advocacy group in South Africa, remarked on Tuesday.
Moses Muluba, from the Center for Health, Human Rights and Development in Uganda, said that revelation of Africa produced vaccines being exported to Europe highlights blaring inequality in the global distribution of Covid-19 vaccines. “In a country like Uganda where we have 44 million people, we have not even reached a target of 4 million vaccinations.
Only 1.7 million have been vaccinated, but we cannot find vaccines in the market,” he said. Mulubu added, “In this case, what does global solidarity mean? Vaccines made in South Africa were supposed to boost distribution to countries like ours, but that has not happened.”